Isaac Bagley confidently carried his rabbit to the showing table as he prepared to take part in his first animal-related 4-H project.
The 7-year-old from Lewiston participated in the Nez Perce County Fair on Thursday, which was modified this year to accommodate only 4-H and FFA projects because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As Bagley put his showmanship on display, he was the only participant at the table, in order to allow for social distancing. He confidently answered the questions the judge asked him before receiving a participation ribbon in his category of Cloverbuds, which lets children between the ages of 5 and 7 try their hand at 4-H.
“You’re handling very well,” said 4-H judge Cindy Newton before handing him the ribbon.
Bagley said he became interested in showing rabbits because of his sister’s past experiences. The allure of having his own rabbit, which he named Inkey, was also tempting.
“They’re really cute and I wanted a pet,” Bagley said.
After a successful first attempt, he said he’d like to continue showing animals for the next five years.
His mother, Amanda Bagley, said four of her kids are participating in the 4-H fair this year. She believes the program teaches them responsibility and gives her kids a sense of camaraderie.
Starting out in the Cloverbuds category gives the younger kids a feeling of success as they decide whether they want to continue with 4-H, Amanda said.
“The judge is patient and really helpful with the Cloverbuds,” she explained. “Everyone will have a good experience and no one will fail here. It’s really good practice.”
Sydney Wilson, 14, of Lewiston, showed her rabbit, Coco, in the junior division, earning the reserve showmanship ribbon. It was the second time she showed a rabbit and her first year showing a pig at the fair.
Wilson said her time in 4-H has taught her a lot of valuable skills.
“I’ve learned how to talk in big groups of people and have learned more responsibility,” she said, adding that she’s also learned the importance of eye contact when addressing other people.
This year’s rabbit show was different than in years past because of the pandemic and a deadly disease affecting rabbit populations.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus, otherwise known as “bunny ebola,” has been spreading rapidly in the southwestern part of the United States.
While the disease has not made it to this region, Wilson said participants this year weren’t able to keep their rabbits in the barns during the duration of the fair as a safety precaution.
“We don’t want it spreading like the coronavirus did,” Wilson said.
Despite the changes to the showing, Jennifer Reynolds, the leader of the K-9 Clovers 4-H Club, said all the participants did a great job this year.
“It went pretty good considering the obstacles and the hoops we had to jump through,” Reynolds said.
Kids showing rabbits would typically start to work on their showmanship during meetings in January. But this year, that was delayed until July.
Newton, the 4-H rabbit judge, said she was impressed by the skills the kids picked up during the shorter time frame.
“It’s a little different than normal, but they’ve gone with the flow and have done a great job,” Newton said.
Tomtas may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.